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October 11, 2002

Iraq — Bush Gets the Bullet

Addressing the nation Monday, President George Bush focused on Iraq’s nuclear WMD capability and Saddam Hussein’s intention to use al-Qa'ida surrogates to detonate a nuclear weapon on U.S. soil: “The danger is already significant, and it only grows worse with time. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof – the smoking gun – that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud. … Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists. Alliances with terrorists could allow the Iraqi regime to attack America – without leaving any fingerprints.”

President Bush highlighted Iraqi ties with known terrorist Abu Nidal, the senior al-Qa'ida operative responsible for the planning and execution of over 90 attacks, adding: “We know that Iraq and the al-Qa'ida terrorist network share a common enemy – the United States of America. We know that Iraq and al-Qa'ida have had high-level contacts that go back a decade. And we know that after September 11, Saddam Hussein’s regime gleefully celebrated the terrorist attacks on America.” This “asymmetric” threat is the foundation of the case against Iraq The Federalist has propounded for eight months.

Dominating the political dialogue in both chambers of Congress was the question of authorizing the use of force against Iraq – before it is too late. The “peace at any price” Democrats, desperate for some campaign issue traction, tried to link the protective proposal to “costs” that might further damage the shaky economy. But to no avail.

Yesterday afternoon the House voted 296 to 133 in favor of a resolution granting the president the prerogative “…to use the armed forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to defend the national security against the continuing threat posed by Iraq and enforce the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.” Democrats voted against the resolution 126 to 81, reiterating the reluctance to fall into line with House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt and other Democrat congressional leaders. Following the vote, Mr. Bush commented that, “The days of Iraq acting as an outlaw state are coming to an end.” Rep. Dick Armey was a bit more plain spoken: “I’m convinced the snake is out of his hole, so we have to kill him.”

Early this morning, after Demo Leader Tom Daschle announced he would no longer oppose the Senate resolution, that body voted overwhelmingly in favor of the resolution 77 to 23. When House Minority Leader Rep. Dick Gephardt, Sen. Joseph Lieberman and Sen. Joseph Biden all concluded to come to terms with the administration on a congressional resolution, Daschle was left out in the cold with an out-of-step Albert Gore. Gephardt spoke truly, if only as pretext to a 2004 presidential bid, saying, “This is not about inspections. It’s about disarmament.” Lieberman commented on Iraq after Saddam: “To me, post-Saddam Iraq is not a burden to be shunned but an opportunity to be relished. It can become a signal to the world, particularly the Islamic world, of our nation’s best intentions.” Biden, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, aptly concluded, “If Saddam Hussein is around five years from now, we are in deep trouble as a country.”

In a last-ditch effort to salvage himself from irrelevance, Daschle joined the chorus: “I have said we strongly support the president’s position for regime change in Iraq. We will do everything possible to ensure that that goal can be achieved, as long as it’s tied to the weapons of mass destruction.” A principled conclusion, to be sure.

Not getting the memo from Daschle-Gephardt, et al., about their conversion, Teddy Kennedy (D-Smirnoff) called a preemptive strike against Saddam “Pearl Harbor in reverse.”

And while the Iraq resolution formally concluded on Capitol Hill, progress in the United Nations remained ambiguous, seriously limited by objections from three Security Council member states – Russia, China and France – regarding a U.S.-British initiative to authorize military force against Iraq if the regime fails to comply with comprehensive weapons inspections. A 25-minute telephone conversation between President Bush and French President Jacqes Chirac on Wednesday yielded little progress, though France has vowed not to use its Security Council veto against such a measure. In Moscow, a senior Kremlin official noted that Russia would take a “pragmatic” approach to any U.S. action against Saddam Hussein, suggesting that, “What is interesting for us is our economic and financial interests.” Echoing previous assertions by The Federalist, these incidents connote the clearest indications to date that France and Russia will – at the very least – do nothing in the case of action against Saddam.

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